Saturday, December 26, 2009

A White Christmas

 Courtesy of my brother Doug, here are most of the Whites at Mom and Dad's - Autumn Green, 67th and Cicero, in Chicago. Missing from this picture are niece Jennifer (in Florida with her husband), niece Candace (in the bathroom), and grand-niece Elle (sleeping). Brother Al made Skyline Chili, sister Paula brought a sandwich platter, brother Doug had various goodies, John brought all the fixin's for the chili, and Mom and Dad provided the pies. Lovely day - a luxury to be with family. We are blessed. On a negative note, the Vicodin I'm taking for knee pain and rehab seems to heighten the senses, especially hearing. My dad's accordion music is lovely, but my brother took this shot when I had obviously had enough. On a positive note, I've been up in my studio a couple of times. While doing the stairs is manageable, using the foot pedal of the sewing machine isn't - just yet.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Time to Reflect

 Now that I'm in the recuperative part of the total right knee replacement, I know I won't be getting up to the studio for 10 - 14 days or so. Since I can't quilt, this break gives me an opportunity to plan the projects I really want to do in the next few months and then priortize these projects. The first two are both pieces of wall art, a bright tumbling blocks with a back background for Kim and Tim Gibbons wedding and a Mariner's Compass in teals, blues, and purples for Janet Sylkaitis's 60th birthday. Of course more quilted totes. I mean, of course! There is a pile of fabrics that I want to use for Mors bags. And then there are projects like the one pictured here (courtesy of I like the drama of the on-point setting as well as the color range. Perhaps this down time won't be so bad after all!
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Elves Have Left the Building!

The big push is over. These three bags are completed. Lynita is purchasing 2 of them, the nicely organized vertical stripes. The scrap tote is for my surgeon's wife - someone who knows her Bible and will appreciate the spirit behind this Amazing Technicolor Dream Tote. I have a couple of projects laid out and ready to go as soon as I can get back to the studio. Of course I wanted to make another 20 or 30 various Christmas gifts - maybe they can be gifts for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

For Kevin's Family

Kevin died in his sleep 6 months ago when he was 31. His family - his mother, his father, his brothers, his niece, his nephew - is grieving. This first year of missing Kevin is painful. The family has gone through a Thanksgiving without him as well as what would have been Kevin's 32nd birthday. Now this anguished family faces their first Christmas without him.

Kevin's mother Lynita is a woman I did a quilt for over 5 years ago. Before I did her wall quilt, she had just seen a t-shirt quilt that I completed. So now, years later, our paths are crossed, under the saddest of circumstances. She gave me Kevin's clothes and suggested wall hangings for her family. Her son Adam and Lynita spent an hour with me in the studio, articulating which shirts/pieces should go in which quilt and what colors/fabrics I could use as sashing and borders.

Adam and his brother David both have wall hangings that are 35" x 60."

Kevin's father, his niece, and his nephew all have hangings that are 24" x 24."

Lynita's is 24" x 48".

Grieving is a process that lasts a lifetime. And there are so many paths to grief recovery. I admire Lynita for helping her family identify a way that they can not only grieve for Kevin's death but also for helping her family - and herself - find a way to commemorate Kevin's life. Kevin will be present Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Well Under Way

The current project of 6 wall hangings is coming together nicely. 3 of the pieces are horizontal wall hangings about 3' x 5'. And 3 of the pieces are 2' x 2' wall hangings. The quilting has begun, and I think I'll complete them by early next week. Then I'm shutting the studio down for a month while I have a total knee replacement. I'll miss the sewing, but I'm thrilled with the thought of a new body part!

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Amazing Technicolor Scrap Tote

Time to change gears. Tomorrow I'm starting a series of grief quilts which have a Christmas deadline. This project is a sad one because the life being celebrated is that of a 31-year old young man. It's also difficult to put away all the bright fabrics I've been using. As I was cleaning up the studio, I used some of the scraps and made one final quilted tote. The effect of these scraps is terrific - I need to go off script more often!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Keeping Surprises - or not...

My sister Paula's birthday is December 1. Yes, I know there are still 2 weeks until her birthday. But considering I made her present almost 3 weeks ago, I think I've done a great job of keeping the surprise as long as I did! This bag is similar in size to the ones I've been making. But what sets this apart are the fabrics - all of them are batiks. These batiks were pieced onto a piece of muslin. The first trickier and similar bag to this one was pieced on paper. I like the muslin piecing better because the muslin becomes a part of the bag's foundation. Now as Paula struts down the street she can sing the chorus from J-J-J-Joseph: I am handsome, I am smart, I am a walking work of art! How I love my tote of many colors...

Happy Be-earlied Birthday, Paula!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roy G. Biv and the Spectrum

Here are 14 Amazing Technicolor Dream Totes for my sister, ready to go to her on Thanksgiving with my parents. Some are the basic colors of the spectrum with colors repeated as they go around the bag. Some of them include the expanded spectrum with no color repeats. All are quilted with a sturdy boxed bottom (stiff needlepoint plastic canvas - who knew?), have a lining that matches the one horizonal band of color, and have a deep pocket on the inside. Merry Christmas to LMSSAC from one of Santa's bigger elves!
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Niece, Altruism, Scraps and a Reversible Quilt

When my brothers' daughters were little, they were part of Camp Quilt for three summers. My mother and their mothers would pitch in, as would Uncle John, and the result was that Laura, Candace, Leslie, and Ali all made quilts, pretty much by themselves. Of course the Good Quilting Fairy was a part of this process. The first summer each girl kept their quilts. The second and third summers I suggested that they make quilts for the church nursery or someone else. My recollection is that they didn't (maybe Candace gave one to her Grandma Miller and maybe Ali gave one to a friend) and that there was eye-rolling at the suggestion. The winter of my niece Leslie's senior year of high school, she asked if she could make a quilt for a friend of hers who was going away. Aha! She above all got it: that quilts were meant to be given away. (Leslie also enlisted my help in making her parents a Christmas photo quilt but that's a separate blog entry).

So when Leslie was her working on her 4th quilt, we decided it was time she learned how to use the rotary cutter. My teaching style is to give some basic directions and then try not to hover. Leslie had her fabrics, knew what to do, and was just cutting away. She asked at one part, pretty far into the process, "Should I be starting at the 0 instead of the 1?" She had cut quite a bit of fabric 1" short. I remember scooping up the miscut pieces and telling Les it was no big deal, and she continued her cutting, this time using the correct measurements by starting at 0.
I saved these scrap pieces, and they became part of a demonstration in foundation piecing for a reversible quilt class that I was teaching. The quilt pictured here has 48 blocks. One side's blocks are all half-square triangles using fabrics from Leslie's quilts. The other side are scrap strips from various projects. Look at the February 6, 2008 blog entry when the body of this quilt was originally done. It's just been sitting, waiting to be completed.

My friend Cathy is on the committee to find a suitable going-away present for her long-time minister Laura at the Downers Grove United Church of Christ and asked if I had any quilts just hanging around. Cathy spotted this scrap quilt. So I finished it, giving a bit of unity by using the same border on the front and the back. Even the binding uses scraps of bindings from various quilts. Reverend Laura is a wonderful woman who has a great ability to bring various personalities together into a unified whole. This quilt is symbolic in some ways of Laura's talent and ministry. That this quilt started with my niece Leslie's altruism makes it even more special. 58" x 74"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chaos vs. Productivity

It sometimes scares me how efficiently I can operate in chaos. All my Reds, Orange, Yellows, Green, Blue, and Indigo/Violets are strewn about the studio, which is where I need to have them. Could I close any of the fabric doors? Apparently not. For the past week I've been sewing, almost maniacally.

The Jinny Beyer fabric here is one that's almost 15 years old and just needs to be used. So I made a couple of boxed Mors bags, and John gave them away at Autumn Green's November FM Jazz session before I could photograph them. I still have enough fabric left for a few more.

What I am loving working on are the totes of many colors. I'm learning to match the bottom horizontal stripe with the lining of the bag. I'm about to finish 2 that have a snappy yellow-orange band and a great lining.

My neighbor Pam visited the studio to see what I was doing and noticed a pile of scraps. And she wants a tote from all the scraps. A Scrappy Amazing Technicolor Dream Tote. I like it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

For Edward

Once a week I drive for the American Cancer Society. I've been doing this since last March, and it's been an eye-opening and rewarding experience. As the newbie, I have relied my passengers to tell me which route to drive and where exactly to go. Today my passenger was the newbie.

Edward is beginning his course of radiation and chemotherapy for lung cancer. He's a sharp dresser - nice coat, brimmed hat. But when he got in the car, he had an armful of various items. I'm driving him tomorrow, too, and giving him this bag. I think it looks manly.

Of course with each trip and patient, I think of Dodie and being her Week 5 driver for her radiation and chemotherapy. Perhaps that was the preparation for what I'm doing now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Favorite of Mine

The last few years I was at Kennedy High School I had my own small office, which had a big blank wall. This quilt was made in the fall of 2002 and gave me great joy. I love the green/black background of each Monkey Wrench block as well as the batiks. The crisp black and burgundy provide the perfect frame for these blocks. And setting these sashed blocks on point gives the quilt a great sense of drama.

In June 2005 this quilt was given to Deb Ryder, the dynamic head of Kennedy's art department, in appreciation for all the fine work she does and how invaluable she was to the work that I did. 76" x 96"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Totes of Many Colors

My sister Paula saw my Amazing Technicolor Dream Tote and thought about Christmas gifts for her office staff. So I began to work on prototypes to figure out price and a less labor-intensive process than mine. The first two had horizontal stripes and look like beach bags. I also got the proportions wrong - the bags are too tall. But now check out the vertical striped one - very attractive, eh? Especially that cute little colorful inside pocket!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Amazing Technicolor Dream Tote

Jinny Beyer is a quilter who understands color and value and has an exquisite eye for design. Her website is great for eye candy and inspiration. I bought one of her quilt kits, Around the World- it's the quilt on the opening page of this blog. Recently I saw her kit for a tote bag. I love the design and love the colors but the price? Not so much. I downloaded the pattern from her website (she really is very generous with her free patterns) and began to put a palette together. And then? Some obsessive paper-piecing and sewing. The result? You be the judge. I think this is fabulous. Time-consuming but fabulous.

Question: What's the perfect sewing music for this pattern?

Answer: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!

Truly, when this bag is carried, it is a walking work of art.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A.D.D. Quilting

Sometimes I'm happiest when I have several things going at once. This is one of those periods, and the controlled chaos of the studio reflects these several projects. I made myself finish bags 3 and 4, using the grape/vine fabric and the matching lining. These bags are boxed, perfect for groceries. I'm trying to whittle down a pile of fabrics designated for Mors bags and build up my stock. Just because.

Newlyweds Tim and Kim Gibbons began the selection for their wedding quilt. Kim really liked Tumbling Blocks, and Tim is color-blind. He responds to values of a color rather than the color itself. So to create a 3-D effect, fabric selection is tricky. To see what I need I have to see what I have. Thus, the piles of various fabrics. These tumbling blocks will go on a black background.

And as long as I'm touching so many of my fabrics, I'm putting together a 16-fabric palette for the Jinny Beyer tote bag pattern. It's an interesting and frustrating exercise, but one that was made sweeter thanks to some CD's my grandson made for me. One was by Jason Becker, a guitar prodigy who was diagnosed with ALS when he was 19. He's now 40 and writing music using only eye movements. The other CD is by Yngwie Malmsteen, a fascinating Swedish multi-instrumentalist. Both have "symphonic rock" in common and are CD's I'll look forward to listening to again and again. The album by Jason Becker (youtube him - fascinating) led me down this path: what quilt would I make if I knew it was my last quilt. The tumbling blocks and color/value exercise are just out of my comfort zone. Challenging. Nice.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And now for something completely different...

In the spring of 2005 Lynita and I finished our collaboration on this wall hanging for her home in Orland Park. It took us three sessions to get the fabric palate right, and during those sessions we hammered out the design. She wanted this piece to have depth with the illusion of fabrics advancing and retreating, and I think this piece has that element. Click on the quilt to see some of the fabric detail. This piece is different from anything else I've done, and I like the result. Recently Lynita and I spoke, and she says she is still thrilled with it. 56" x 76"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let the Celebrating End!

It's been a full week of celebrating, starting with John turning 70 Monday and ending with my 60th birthday today. Sewing has been on the back burner. I did get out this piece I did in a "Convergence" quilt class in Madison, WI, almost 2 years ago to begin quilting it. So far the quilting is a mixture of straight lines with a walking foot and free motion work. Click on the picture for some of the details. I think I will stipple the borders - great way to practice free-motion work. Because I didn't choose these fabrics and probably won't hang this piece, I feel free to take some risks and try some thread work.

It's nice to have birthdays, but it's also nice to have them over with and get back to normal!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Simple Baby Quilt

 One of the things I love about my quilt blog is that it's been a diary/record of what I have done. I know I should have been more diligent about keeping track of my work. Yesterday I was transferring a huge file of photos from my old laptop to a flash drive (lesson learned after losing all of my pictures from Turkey) and came across this quilt that I should have blogged about in March 2007. Cathy and I have been friends for over 50 years. Her daughters have married, and both have had 2 children. This quilt is for Cathy's only grandson Bradley. At the time I had just moved into my new quilting studio and was agog with projects and my college roommate's death. This quilt for Bradley is a simple one - horizontal stripes of varying widths of fabric - and simply quilted. This quilt may be simple, but the visual payoff is a big one. 44" x 60"

Speaking of big payoffs, today is my husband John's 70th birthday. Huge in so many ways! His hands are barely visible at the top of Bradley's quilt.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

That Damned Elusive Free-Motion Quilting

I'm impressed by quilters who are able to do free-motion quilting. I've taken classes in free-motion quilting. I've practiced this technique without much success and have never felt confident or comfortable with it. And so I always resort to the safety of my walking foot when it's time to quilt.

Almost a year ago I met my quilting Doppelganger at a Fiber Arts show in Glencoe. Wayne is left-handed, has the same Husqvarna sewing machine, is drawn to geometric designs and modern fabrics, keeps a blog of his work, and quilts with the same passion I do. In our e-friendship we've discovered some amazing similarities. We have successfully incorporated his wife Wendy and my husband John into our friendship and have tried when we are with them to keep quilt talk and spousal eye-rolling to a minimum. One of the things Wayne does very very well is free-motion quilting.

Friday we got together for the first time as quilters and did our own workshop. Wayne coached me on the technique. And this bag is the result. I won't claim that I've mastered the technique, but the two sides of this oversized bag are a great start. I thank Wayne for helping me with the breakthrough of this technique!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Out of Africa

 This ethnic wall hanging is finished. There were several inspirations for this work. First, there was the central fabric, a wonderful gradated piece with its range from gold to deep brown. Second, there was that fabulous pile of scraps that formed the border. Third, as I was beginning to put this piece together, I stumbled across the book Simply Stunning Woven Quilts (thanks to Rachel from my Art Quilt group) and did the woven circle, which anchors the whole thing. The final inspiration came from the walls at the Salt Creek Wine Bar in Brookfield - they are a marvelous textured deep red with brown undertones. The whole time I was working on this piece, I envisioned it hanging at this bar. John and I are having our 60th and 70th birthday party there, and Out of Africa will be hung there in their wine-tasting room. It's my present to Tom and Linda. 29" x 36"
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